‘Tis spring migration and time for the annual Bird-a-thon. What is a Bird-a-thon? It is a fundraiser for Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary that is fun and educational. This year is special as the monies will go to raising funds for Felix Neck’s Coastal Waterbird Program. The chain of events goes thusly: contact friends and businesses and ask them to pledge a certain amount per bird or a flat rate donation. Then go out birding with friends between 6 p.m. tonight, May 11 and 5:59 p.m. tomorrow, May 12. Submit your list of birds to Felix Neck and collect the money that you received pledges for, or you can pledge through firstgiving.com/fundraiser/suzan-bellincampi/bird-a-thon-2012.
The details for the Bird-a-thon are on the Massachusetts Audubon Web site, massaudubon.org/birdathon. As the Web site says, “You don’t have to be out in the field to be a part of Bird-a-thon. You can make a difference by raising money for your local wildlife sanctuary or a Mass Audubon program that’s important to you.”
This weekend Luanne Johnson and Liz Baldwin will begin a trapping effort to capture and color band some crows at Dogfish Bar in Aquinnah. The crows will have three color bands and one aluminum band. Colors are red, blue and yellow. I will post this information once the women actually capture and band some crows, which they hope will be soon.
It is likely that the Dogfish Bar crows are also visiting other sites in Aquinnah (perhaps the entire Island). If birders see a banded crow, we hope you will have time to get the color band combo (for example, left leg and right leg: blue/aluminum, blue/red) and report the combo with a date, time, and location. Remember: the left leg means the crow’s left leg, not yours.
Rob Bierregaard and Dick Jennings had a scare recently. In Rob’s own words, “Our two young from the class of 2010 are moving north. Both have crossed the Caribbean safely. Belle, from the Vineyard, is in Haiti. We’re considering renaming her Phoenix after her recent resurrection. Her transmitter stopped moving for 26 hours and we were stone-cold certain she was dead. Then, three days later when her next download came, she was up and about flying all over Lake Saumatre, just east of Port au Prince.” Belle’s new map is at bioweb.uncc.edu/bierregaard/migration12.htm
Warblers are on Island, either for a stopover or here for the nesting season. Penny Uhlendorf spotted a Nashville warbler and great crested flycatcher at Pilot Hill in Tisbury on May 3. Lanny McDowell photographed an ovenbird at Prospect Hill in Chilmark on May 5. The same day Rob Culbert was treated to viewing black-throated blue warblers, black-throated green warblers, yellow, pine and yellow-rumped warblers, as well as great crested flycatchers and a rose-breasted grosbeak in his Tisbury yard. On May 6 Ken Magnuson found a yellow warbler at Sheriff’s Meadow in Edgartown and an eastern kingbird at the Vineyard Golf Club in Edgartown. Bob and Andrea Reardon heard and saw a blue winged warbler at the Mill Pond Preserve in Chilmark on May 7 and also at Waskosim’s Rock. The Reardons mentioned that they spotted two black-crowned night herons at Squibnocket, and that both surf scoters and common loons are still off Lobsterville and Aquinnah.
Other new arrivals include a house wren seen by Penny Uhlendorf at Ripley Field Preserve in Tisbury, scarlet tanagers by Lanny McDowell at Tashmoo on May 3 and 4, wood thrush spotted at the Frisbee Field at the State Forest chimney swifts seen on May 5 by Matt Pelikan in Tisbury, and on the same day a green heron at Crackatucket Cove in Edgartown by Jeff Bernier.
The coastal waterbirds that have returned to the Vineyard include least terns seen at Quansoo by Caitlin Borck on May 5 and at Mink Meadows on May 7.
Shorebirds include an upland sandpiper photographed by Lanny McDowell at the Farm Institute on May 6. The same day Liz Baldwin counted 20 greater yellowlegs and the first common terns at Dogfish Bar in Aquinnah. Over on Chappaquiddick the same day Dale Carter counted three greater yellowlegs and mentioned that on May 2 she watched two great blue herons harassing great egrets in the marshes by the Dyke Bridge.
Gray catbirds are back from one end of the Island to another. On May 4 Dan Waters welcomed back his Christiantown catbird. Connie Cowan’s raisin-strewn driveway brought her catbird back May 4 and indigo buntings and rose-breasted grosbeaks to her feeder. Janet Sigler’s catbird returned to her Edgartown Great Pond yard on May 8. On May 6 Rob Culbert spotted one at the Oak Bluff Pumping Station along with a yellow warbler, a Baltimore oriole and a late staying bufflehead. Rob added that he saw a late staying Bonaparte’s gull at Harthaven and horned larks at the Sylvia State Beach on the same day.
Jeff Bernier’s photographs of swallows at Edgartown Great Pond started an interesting conversation between Island birders. The majority feel the swallows are rough-winged swallows, not bank.
It is nice to hear that whip-poor-wills are being seen and heard in different areas on Island. On May 6 Larry Hepler reported that he had been hearing whips for several days and that his ruby-throated hummingbird returned. On May 7 William Waterway spotted two whip-poor-wills along the side of State Road in Chilmark. William also mentioned that he had a white-throated sparrow in full breeding plumage in his Edgartown yard on May 6. Tom Rivers had a white-throat and a male rose-breasted grosbeak in his Tea Lane yard on May 2. The day before the Spongbergs also hosted a male rose-breasted grosbeak — might be the same bird. Ed Higham reported hearing a whip-poor-will in Chilmark on May 7.
Baltimore orioles are back in numbers. Ken Leland spotted one on Wasque Point on May 5. Sarah Howes of Aquinnah had a male and female chowing down on suet and shunning the orange she had put out on May 3. Sofia Anthony spotted a Baltimore oriole at her yard near Mahoney’s in Oak Bluffs on May 4. She also mentioned that the leucistic downy woodpecker made it through the winter.
Penny Uhlendorf heard a red-headed woodpecker on May 7, but has been unable to find the bird. Hopefully it will show up in her Pilot Hill yard.
Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-645-2913 or e-mail to birds@ mvgazette.com. Susan B. Whiting is the coauthor of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her website is vineyardbirds2.com.